Legislators around the country thought it was wise to enact drug-free zone laws to deter and severely punish people who sell drugs to or around our children. Even as a criminal defense attorney I admire efforts to keep drugs away from children. Nevertheless, given overcrowded prisons and jails, and the bludgeoning debt needed to incarcerate such nonviolent offenders, perhaps it is time to rethink drug-free zone laws.
Texas Drug-Free Zone law is codified in Section 481.134 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. It severely impacts drug cases by imposing tough minimum sentences that further loads our overcrowded prisons and jails with more and more nonviolent black and brown people at taxpayers’ expense. Here is how it works.
Five Years Minimum
Section 481.134 increases the sentence of a drug charge that occurred within 1000ft of a school, youth center, playground, daycare or university to a minimum of five years in the penitentiary. In other words, persons sentenced under Section 481.134 must serve at least five years before they are eligible for parole.
Section 481.134 empowers prosecutors to enhance drug-free zone violations to the next highest level. For instance, if a person faces a state jail felony drug charge that is a violation of Section 481.134, the prosecutor can enhance the charge to a third-degree felony. Such an enhancement increases the maximum incarceration from two-years in state jail to ten years in the penitentiary. That is an enormous increase.
Section 481.134 requires two or more sentences to be stacked if a person is sentenced for another offense at the same time he is sentenced for violating Section 481.134. In other words, stacking requires that a person serve the two sentences consecutively or one at a time. On the other hand, concurrent sentencing allows a person to serve two or more sentences simultaneously.
We zealously defend all of our clients, especially when the law they allegedly violated is producing severe secondary unintended consequences, i.e., overcrowded jails with nonviolent offenders. So, we would love to handle your drug case and use the opportunity to send a message that Texas drug-free zone laws are wrongheaded, and there are much better ways to deter people from selling drugs to children. For example, a great and provable determent to drug dealing is to create hope, jobs and economic opportunity in inner-city communities through early childhood development, better schools, and corporate investment.
Call us today at 214-643-6199 to discuss your drug case.